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The Council at Jerusalem


Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to discuss this question with the apostles and the elders. 3So they were sent on their way by the church, and as they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the believers. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. 5But some believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and said, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses.”

6 The apostles and the elders met together to consider this matter. 7After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “My brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that I should be the one through whom the Gentiles would hear the message of the good news and become believers. 8And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us; 9and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us. 10Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? 11On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

12 The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13After they finished speaking, James replied, “My brothers, listen to me. 14Simeon has related how God first looked favorably on the Gentiles, to take from among them a people for his name. 15This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written,


‘After this I will return,

and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen;

from its ruins I will rebuild it,

and I will set it up,


so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—

even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called.

Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things 18known from long ago.’

19 Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, 20but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood. 21For in every city, for generations past, Moses has had those who proclaim him, for he has been read aloud every sabbath in the synagogues.”

The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers

22 Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, 23with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, 25we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: 29that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

30 So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation. 32Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. 33After they had been there for some time, they were sent off in peace by the believers to those who had sent them. 35But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, and there, with many others, they taught and proclaimed the word of the Lord.


Paul and Barnabas Separate

36 After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the believers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38But Paul decided not to take with them one who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not accompanied them in the work. 39The disagreement became so sharp that they parted company; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40But Paul chose Silas and set out, the believers commending him to the grace of the Lord. 41He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

16. After these things I will return. Because the place is not cited word for word as it is in the prophet, we must see what difference there is, though it be not necessary to examine straitly what diversity there is in the words, so it appear that the prophecy doth fitly agree with the matter which is in hand. After that God hath promised the restoring of the tabernacle of David, he saith also, that he will bring to pass that the Jews shall possess the remnants of Edom. In all that text, there appeareth nothing as yet whence the calling of the Gentiles can be fet 122122     “Elici,” inferred. or gathered; but that which followeth immediately after in the prophet, concerning the remnant of the Gentiles which shall call upon the name of the Lord, doth plainly show that the Jews and Gentiles shall make one Church, because that which was then proper to the Jews alone is given to both in general. For God placeth the Gentiles in like degree of honor with the Jews, when he will have them to call upon his name. Those of Idumea, and the people thereabout, were in times past under David subject to the Jews; but though they were tributaries to the people of God, yet were they nevertheless strangers from the Church. Therefore, this was news and a strange thing, in that God reckoneth them up with the holy people, that he may be called 123123     “Pariter,” in like manner. the God of them all; seeing that it is certain that they are all made equal in honor among themselves by this means. Whereby it doth plainly appear how well the testimony of the prophet agreeth with the present purpose. For God promiseth to restore the decayed tabernacle, wherein the Gentiles shall obey the kingdom of David, not only that they may pay tribute, or take [to arms] weapon at the king’s commandment, but that they may have one God, and that they may be one family to him.

Yet there may a question be moved, why he had rather cite this prophecy, than many other which contain more plentiful proof of the matter which he hath in hand, of which sort Paul citeth many? (Romans 15:9, 10, 11.) I answer, first, that the apostles were not ambitious in heaping up places of Scripture; but they did simply aim at this, which was sufficient for them, to wit, that they might prove that their doctrine was taken out of the word of God; secondly, I say that this prophecy of Amos is more plain than it is commonly taken to be. The prophet intreateth of the restoring of an house which was decayed; 124124     “Collapsa erat,” had fallen down. he describeth the miserable ruin thereof. Therefore, the promise, which is added immediately, that the seat and throne shall be set up again, from of which kings of the posterity of David shall rule over the Gentiles, doth properly appertain unto Christ. Therefore, so soon as the kingdom of Christ is set up, that must needs follow which the prophet saith also, that the Gentiles shall call upon the name of God. Now, we see that James did not unadvisedly make choice of this place; for if the kingdom of Christ cannot be otherwise established, unless God be called upon everywhere throughout the whole world, and the Gentiles grow together to be one with his holy people, it is an absurd thing that they should be driven from hope of salvation, and the middle wall must fall to the ground, wherewith the one was separate from the other under the law, 125125     “Hunc enim finem inter alios habebant ceremoniae, ut sanctum Dei populum a profanis Gentilus discernerent; nunc sublato discrimine, ceremonias quoque abrogari convenit,” for ceremonies had this, among other ends, that they might distinguish the holy people of God from the profane Gentiles; the distinction being now removed, ceremonies must also be abolished. The whole of this passage is omitted in the translation. (Ephesians 2:14.) The first word, I will return, is not in the prophet, but the change of the state which he denounceth is very well expressed by this means.

The tabernacle of David, which was decayed. It is not without cause that that evil-favored wasteness and ruin of the king’s house is set before our eyes by the prophet; for unless the godly should have been persuaded that Christ should notwithstanding come, though the kingdom of David were brought to nought, who should not only restore to their old order things which were decayed, but should exalt even unto the heavens the glory of his kingdom with incomparable success, they should have despaired a hundred times in a day. After they were returned from the exile wherein they lived at Babylon, they were brought by continual destructions almost unto utter destruction. Afterward that which remained was consumed by little and little with civil 126126     “Intestinis,” intestine. discord, yea, when God did relieve their miseries, that kind of help which they had was a certain matter of despair; 127127     “Quaedam erat desperationis materia,” was a kind of material for despair. for that rule which the Maccabees took upon them was then taken away from the tribe of Juda. For these causes the Spirit of God doth diligently beat in [inculcate] this by the prophet, that Christ shall not come until the kingdom of David shall perish, that they may not despair of salvation even amidst greatest miseries. So Isaiah saith, that there shall a branch arise out of the contemptible and base stock, 128128     “Ex contempto et ignobili trunco,” from an ignoble and despised trunk. (Isaiah 11:1;) and let us also remember, that God doth observe this wonderful way in restoring the Church, that he doth build it up, 129129     “Ex ruinis,” out of ruins. when it is decayed.

Furthermore, this place teachers when the Church is best ordered, and what is the true and right constitution thereof, to wit, when the throne of David is set up, and Christ alone hath the preeminence, that all may meet together in his obedience. 130130     “In ejus obsequium conveniant,” may accord in obeying him.

Though the Pope have oppressed the Church with his sacrilegious tyranny, yet doth he make boast of the title of the Church; yea, he deceiveth men under the vain title of the Church, that he may put out the clear light of sound doctrine. But if we shall come thoroughly to examine the matter, we may easily refute such a gross mock, because he alone beareth rule, having deposed Christ. He doth in word confess that he is Christ’s vicar; but in very deed after that he hath by a beautiful banishment 131131     “Specioso exilio,” a specious exile. sent Christ into the heavens, he taketh to himself all his power; for Christ reigneth by the doctrine of his gospel alone, which is wickedly trodden under foot by this abominable idol. But let us remember that this shall be the lawful estate of the Church among us, if we do all in general 132132     “Omnes ad unum,” all to a man. obey Christ, the King of kings, that there may be one sheepfold and one Shepherd, (John 10:16.)

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